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Cervicogenic headaches 

Headaches that come from issues with your neck. In this article we look at symptoms, causes and treatment options. 

What are Cervicogenic headaches?

Cervicogenic headaches are a type of headache that originates from the cervical spine or neck region. Unlike migraines or tension headaches, cervicogenic headaches can go underdiagnosed and generally misunderstood.

Causes of Cervicogenic Headaches 

Cervicogenic headaches can arise from various causes, primarily related to dysfunction or damage in the cervical spine or its surrounding structures. 

Some common causes include:

  • Neck injuries: Traumatic events like whiplash or sports injuries can lead to cervicogenic headaches. These injuries may cause structural damage, muscle strain, or nerve irritation.
  • Poor posture: Prolonged periods of poor posture, such as slouching or sitting at a desk for long hours, can strain the muscles and joints in the neck, contributing to cervicogenic headaches.
  • Arthritis: Conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can affect the cervical spine, leading to cervicogenic headaches. Inflammation and degeneration of the joints can cause pain and headaches.
  • Cervical disc disorders: Herniated discs or bulging discs in the cervical spine can impinge on nerves, resulting in cervicogenic headaches.

Symptoms of Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches typically manifest as unilateral headaches, meaning they occur on one side of the head. However, it’s important to note that bilateral symptoms can also occur. 

Common symptoms:

  • Neck pain: Pain originating from the neck and spreading to the back of the head, forehead, or behind the eyes is a key symptom of cervicogenic headaches.
  • Restricted neck movement: Patients with cervicogenic headaches often experience a limited range of motion in their necks, accompanied by stiffness and discomfort.
  • Shoulder and arm pain: The pain associated with cervicogenic headaches may radiate to the shoulder and arms, following the path of the affected nerves.
  • Headaches triggered by neck movements: Cervicogenic headaches are often aggravated by certain neck movements or sustained positions, such as turning the head or maintaining a static posture for extended periods.

Treatment for Cervicogenic Headaches 

The management of cervicogenic headaches involves a multimodal approach targeting the underlying cause and providing symptomatic relief. 

Treatment approaches include:

  • Physical therapy: Specific exercises and stretches aimed at improving posture, strengthening neck muscles, and enhancing flexibility can be prescribed by a physical therapist. These exercises help alleviate pain and prevent future episodes.
  • Manual therapy: Techniques like spinal manipulation, mobilization, and soft tissue therapy administered by chiropractors or physical therapists can provide pain relief and restore proper alignment and movement of the cervical spine.
  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, and analgesics may be prescribed to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in the cervical region.
  • Nerve blocks: In some cases, nerve blocks or corticosteroid injections may be recommended to target specific nerves or reduce inflammation around the cervical spine, providing temporary relief from pain.
  • Stress management: Since stress and tension can exacerbate cervicogenic headaches, stress management techniques like relaxation exercises, meditation, and biofeedback can be helpful in managing the condition.

At Skelian our chiropractors can help diagnose, treat and manage your cervicogenic headaches. This is typically done alongside health and lifestyle tips including exercise advice to help reduce the stresses on the neck. 

If you would like to know more about how we might be able to help you with cervicogenic headaches please contact the clinic on 01242 254000 to speak to one of our trusted expert practitioners. 

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Alex Broomsgrove, Chiropractor Cheltenham Skelian

Alex Broomsgrove



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